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Lies a Part of Human Nature

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Everyone lies. In fact, lies are an important facet of humanity. For example, research shows that two acquaintances lie several times in the average ten minute conversation. Although we are told to always tell the truth from a very young age, parents lie about Santa Clause or about the pet dog's death. Parents also smile and say "thank you" when receiving a gift, then possibly belittle it at home. These conflicting messages signal children to regard lies as okay.

We lie to ourselves all the time to make problems, fears, and failures seem less troublesome. A New Year's resolution can be considered a lie, too, because in most cases we don't intend to keep the promise -- we've only deceived ourselves. Or consider the next time a friend or colleague asks, "How are you?" That person doesn't want to hear that you're tired, overworked, underpaid, and have problems with your significant other. Social rules demand that you reply, "I'm fine."

Psychologist Paul Ekman offers some basic reasons for lying. We lie to escape punishment, to get out of uncomfortable situations, to boost our egos, to receive a reward, to protect someone, or to control the flow of information. Everything from a large exaggeration to a small lie falls into one of these categories.

Despite the fact that lying is an indivisible part of our psyche, we can only catch a lie about fifty percent of the time. The success rate is quite low, and suggests that we don't want to know that another person isn't being honest. Lies, some experts suggest, are the glue which holds society together.


Preview some of the lesson material:

Brainstorm: Brainstorm with a partner(s) words and ideas associated with "human nature" for 2 minutes. Spend another 5 minutes or less discussing the words and ideas together.

Do you agree or disagree?:

  1. Everyone lies.
  2. Everyone lies every day.
  3. It's impossible not to lie sometimes.
  4. Lying is an important part of society.
  5. I have told three or more lies today.

post-Comprehension: Talk about the following questions in pairs/groups. Remember to support your answers!

  1. How often do you think you lie? Is it too much? Why?
  2. What are some of the reasons you've lied recently?
  3. Do you think lies hold society together? Why/not?
  4. What situations would it be better to lie than to tell the truth? Why do you think so?
  5. Do you think one gender lies more than the other? Why/not?

Google Search: Type "human nature" into Google. Look at the websites, and/or read additional articles on this topic. Discuss or write an essay about your findings.


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